White-tailed Tropicbird Phaethon lepturus

  • Order: Phaethontiformes
  • Family: Phaethontidae
  • Polytypic: 6 subspecies
  • Authors needed...

The White-tailed Tropicbird is the smallest of the three species of tropicbird. It resembles the other species in its mostly-white plumage, vaguely tern-like shape, and long, tapered tail. White-tailed is unique in having a yellow bill, large black patches on the greater wing coverts and primaries, and a largely white tail (this last feature is shared by Red-billed Tropicbird, Phaethon aethereus). White-tailed occurs throughout the tropical oceans, in the Neotropics particularly in the Caribbean and off northeastern Brazil. It breeds on small, remote islands on cliffs and occasionally in trees. While feeding is largely offshore, this species is more apt to forage near the coast than other tropicbirds. It takes small fish, squid, and crustaceans, generally by plunge-diving. Flying-fish, however, may be taken in mid-air during leaps. Outside of the breeding season, individuals may disperse some distance, sometimes as far as 1000 km.

Help complete this species

There are many ways to contribute—we need species information, photographs, audio, video, translations, maps, distribution data, and bird sightings. There's a role for everyone!

Learn more

Short calls

© Jon Erickson

  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding

Recommended Citation

White-tailed Tropicbird (Phaethon lepturus), In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: https://neotropical.birds.cornell.edu/Species-Account/nb/species/whttro